According to ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja in a landmark ruling on Tuesday “restrained the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest and prosecute Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s), media houses, radio and television stations, the Plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”
The ruling followed the suit filed against the government by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians arguing that “the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, criminalization of Nigerians and other people using Twitter have escalated repression of human rights and unlawfully restricted the rights of Nigerians and other people to freedom of expression, access to information, and media franchise in the country.”
The court gave the order after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyer to the Nigerian government, Maimuna Shiru.
The ECOWAS court held that “The court has listened very well to the objection by Nigeria. The court has this to say.
Any interference with Twitter is viewed as interference with human rights, and that will violate human rights. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
“The court also hereby orders that the application be heard expeditiously. The Nigerian government must take immediate steps to implement the order.”
The suit and the ruling followed the suspension of Twitter by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed after the social media giant was banned in the country for deleting President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) also ordered TV and radio stations to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”, and told them to delete ‘unpatriotic’ Twitter.
The substantive suit has been adjourned to July 6, 2021, for hearing of the substantive suit.